To the editor:
On Feb. 8, three statewide candlelight vigils honored Stephanie Moulton, a human services worker from Peabody allegedly murdered by a client in a group home serving the mentally ill.
On what should have been her 26th birthday, Stephanie's parents, human services workers and others gathered in Peabody, Springfield and New Bedford in a statewide effort to call attention to the circumstances of her death.
Since Moulton's death, a second human services worker was also allegedly killed by a client while working. It is clear that workers' safety is a persistent problem.
While instances of violence involving the mentally ill are extremely rare, these events occurred in the context of budget cuts and system changes. SEIU Local 509, with its 13,000 human services workers, call on the state for the following reforms:
Implement statewide safety reforms in the mental health system, including a way for workers to rapidly summon assistance when needed and increase case management oversight.
Pass House Bill 3929 into law, which would create an oversight committee to ensure safety and quality in community mental health programs like the one in which Stephanie died.
Increase funding for the state Department of Mental Health, which is $55 million below 2009 funding levels.
For those who care for the mentally ill and disabled, we hope that the candlelight vigils shed light on their working conditions. We know that people recovering from mental illness are able to succeed in the community with proper supports. In order to honor both Stephanie Moulton and the people she compassionately served, we must take action to create safer communities.
SEIU Local 509